Let's be honest: this one hurts as much as any of the close losses of the Spurrier era. We played our best ball against a hated rival and yet somehow managed to crap the game away. Memories of 06 Florida or 07 Tennessee come to mind as similar games where we managed to lose despite a great effort. Our defense seriously deserves to be commended for having to endure loss after such a stellar performance.
That said, there are some positives to take away here. First of all, as cocknfire said, the team and the coaches didn't mail it in following the Vanderbilt loss. Now, the key is to continue to believe we can improve. I was only the third game, and there's no reason to believe we can't win eight games and play in a decent bowl this season if we continue to play like we did yesterday.
Now for the specifics: despite the final score, the offense made serious strides yesterday. Chris Smelley was 23/39 and threw for 271 yards. Did anyone think we would see Chris play like that after Vandy? This is a player who can lead us to some victories if he continues to play consistently. Remember, before the game I said that our defense would put us in position to win as long as Chris didn't make mistakes that could lead to a short field for UGA. I was right, and the key for Chris at this point is to continue to play smart. The big plays will come as his young crew of targets matures.
I also thought the Spurrier made some nice schematic adjustments. We finally saw the two tight end set we had been waiting for. We saw good usage of our depth at WR. Moe Brown, after playing the goat against Vandy, stepped up big time. And don't forget: Kenny should be back in time for an important matchup against Ole Miss on 10/4. That's another weapon. We've got two cupcake games coming up, so there should be time to work out the rest of the kinks before Ole Miss.
And the offensive line played well blocking the pass. Chris is a decent QB when he has time, and he had it for most of yesterday's game. Hats go off to John Hunt for fixing the assignment issues.
And then there's the defense. We held UGA to around 250 total yards. Not bad. My only complaint is that we didn't manage to get the game-changing turnover I was hoping for. I'm still scratching my head as to how we didn't recover that fumble Munnerlyn forced against Stafford. That could've been a huge play; it would've taken away the FG UGA tacked on at the end of the half, and we would've gotten a chance to score more points to follow up on our one TD drive.
The bad? Well, the running game is still a big question mark. We have a senior RB who should be able help us, but we're just not getting good run blocking. And I'm just not going to talk about the fumble.
All in all, I feel good about this team as we go forward. I read an interesting comment on an UGA blog earlier. The commenter asked why we can't play all year the way we play each year against UGA. That comment should be a challenge to this team. If they can maintain yesterday's intensity for the rest of the year, we could do something. Don't forget; UGA is the second ranked team in the country, and we had them on their heels. If we can play like that against Ole Miss, the Vols, etc., we can win some games. On the other hand, if what we saw yesterday was a one-time thing, we could be in trouble. Let's hope these guys keep it up.
Also, I think it's worth mentioning that Vandy is now 3-0 and just won a game going away against a decent Rice team. I'm thinking that by the end of the year that loss won't seem quite so embarrassing.